Friday, November 25, 2011

Kids in the Annie Hall

Annie Hall (1977)
from IMDb

Romantic adventures of neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer and his equally neurotic girlfriend Annie Hall. The film traces the course of their relationship from their first meeting, and serves as an interesting historical document about love in the 1970s.

Annie Hall stars Woody Allen and Diane Keaton and was directed by Allen as well.  It won four academy awards including best picture and best actress.

I'd like to start off that I was not excited about this movie.  I had a closed mind about Woody Allen films.  Originally I didn't think I would enjoy the self deprecating humor that Woody Allen is known for.  However, recently after enjoying movies like Zombieland starring Jesse Eisenberg, Superbad and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World starring Michael Cera, I thought I needed to give Woody Allen a fair shot.  Besides it's on the list so even if the movie is awful I have to buckle down and power through it.

And I'm glad I did.  Annie Hall was a very good movie and I fully understand why it won all the awards it did.  From all the "Ferris Bueller" moments with Woody Allen talking directly to the audience to the cameos by Jeff Goldblum and the always great Christopher Walken the movie entertains throughout.  The relationship between Diane Keaton and Allen exemplifies the opposites attract standard that have been beaten to death by every film starring Katherine Heigl.  Diane Keaton plays the title character, a ditzy space cadet who falls in love with the overly anxious Alvy Singer played by Woody Allen.  The film has many laugh out loud moments including the animated sequence where Alvy has a relationship with Snow White's evil stepmother, a great scene with Annie and Alvy meeting separately with their therapist and Alvy rushing over to Annie's apartment at 3 AM to kill a spider because Alvy has "been killin spiders since I was 30".

Annie Hall was a pleasant surprise.  Although extremely hesitant about this film I could not be happier with the experience of watching it.  I have a new found respect for Woody Allen, as an actor and director.  When I began the movie I figured Allen's self-deprecating humor would become old rather quickly, but it was quite the opposite.  I laughed throughout the entire movie and even felt as though the ending was well deserved.  This is a highly recommended movie and I definitely have a better feeling about having to watch Manhattan, another of Woody Allen's films on my list.

Have you seen Annie Hall?  What did you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Network (1976) 
from IMDb

A TV network cynically exploits a deranged ex-TV anchor's ravings and revelations about the media for their own profit.

Network stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch and Robert Duvall.  It was directed by Sidney Lumet who also directed Dog Day Afternoon and the exceptional film, 12 Angry Men.

The movie begins with Peter Finch's character, Howard Beale, as an aging news anchorman who learns that he is being fired due to poor ratings.  He obviously doesn't take this well and announces on air that on his last day as anchorman he would commit public suicide.  This causes a media sensation that blows the ratings for the program through the roof.  And there lies the quandary in movie.  What do you sacrifice for the benefit of ratings?  The network decides that they are no longer going to fire Howard, but give him a platform to rant about whatever is on his mind.  A mind that slowly decays as the movie progresses.

Overall, Network is a very good movie.  The acting was exceptional.  Peter Finch gives a tremendous portrayal of a man going insane, but isn't on screen enough in the second half of the film.  Prior to this film, I don't remember ever seeing Robert Duvall play a villain, but his depiction of Frank Hackett was done masterfully enough that I actively disliked him and wanted bad things to happen to him.  The pace moves reasonable well, though seems to slow down after the iconic "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" moment.  At a certain point the film seems to become fractured though.  It breaks off from what I believe is supposed to be the message of the film, that anything can and will be done to make more money, to include a separate message concerning the great effect that television is having on the knowledge of the world.  This secondary theme seems to be the epitomized with the character of Diana Christensen, played by Faye Dunaway, and Sidney Lumet attempts to use Diana to join the two themes of the movie.  Diana is the highly motivated director of programming who will exploit anyone for ratings and will do anything for her rise to the top.  The end of the movie is a perfect example of the lengths she will go.

Network falls apart a little with the inclusion of a love story between Max Shumacher, played by William Holden, and Diana.  The two appear to be strange bedfellows and I'm left to believe that it's purpose is an attempt to humanize Diana or possibly show how empty of a human she truly is.  Throughout the first half of the movie you develop sympathy for Max for how he is treated and the helplessness he must feel seeing his best friend's downward spiral into insanity.  Until, of course, he cheats on and subsequently leaves his wife to be with Diana.  The relationship comes across as forced to me and unnecessary for the plot of the movie.  It almost feels like filler.

So in my opinion, Network is worth the watch.  It would've been better had they concentrated more on Howard Beale and less on the side story.  It starts like a lion and ends like a lamb, well except the final scene but I won't spoil that.

So there it is.  My first review.  How did I do?  Did I hit the nail on the head, or completely miss the mark?  Throw a comment below to let me know!